Mobile Fundraising Picks of the Month!

Posted by KatrinVerclas on Nov 08, 2008

I am thinking a lot about how nonprofits and NGOs can use mobile phones for fundraising (this being the holiday season and all) and have been collecting examples of campaigns that I like to extract some lessons and data on how it's working. Here are my picks of some that I have come across. I'll tell you what I like and why (and what's not so great here).  Note that I have no data yet on how WELL they have worked but believe me, we are on it for a whiteb paper on the topic later in the season...So, here is November's pick!

UNICEF's Halloween Trick-or-treat for UNICEF campaign:

  • How it works: Donors can text the word “TOT” to 864233 (UNICEF) to make a $5 donation via premium SMS that gets billed to the user's phone bill or prepaid card. 
  • What's nice about this: This campaign uses the just-in-time feature of mobile perfectly and had great potential to be used during the Halloween season where kids walk around with little donation boxes when the go door to door  -- kids collecting for kids.  Most people at the door give a few coins as opposed to $5, so with the right promotion, this campaign could generate extra money in addition to the collection.  The customized kid characters on the site are a nice touch as well - help a kid fill a UNICEF box that personalizes the interaction. But these characters need some work... read on.  
  • What could be improved:  Make the web site interactive!  When I give to one of the characters, make them do something on the site -- jump up and down, or wave their box or dress-up-hat!!  And please, update their costumes and use cases -- clealy the people at UNICEF who designed this campaign have no kids or no clue what kids dress up for Halloween.  More effectively would probably be to showcase the kids UNICEF serves rather than the trick-a-treaters or at least tie the kids collecting to the kids in need to ensure that it's clear where the contribution is going.  The mobile campaign was also poorly integrated with the rest of the collection -- there were no materials, fliers, nothing on the actual collection boxes, no information whatsoever for the kids collecting to hand out. There was also no cross-promotion of the mobile text-a-treat to UNICEF campaign across the other channels such as Facebook and MySpace where UNICEF promoted the Halloween fundraising effort.  A mobile fundraising campaign is only as good as the integration into and marketing of the mobile component as part of the overall campaign. I applaud how UNICEF is starting to think about social media, but the mechanics, integration, and strategy of this campaign, including mobile, needs some work!

Salvation Army's Text-a- Kettle Campaign for the Holidays

  • How it works: Americans know about the Salvation Army's ubiquitous holiday bell ringers who collect money for this large charity which trains and employs low-skill workers.  According to the Salvation army, Atlanta-area officials are introducing a program that lets donors give $5 to the charitable organization by sending a text message.  Beginning in two weeks, cell phone users in the Atlanta area can text message "TSA" (as in "The Salvation Army")  to 90999 and a $5 donation will be added to their phone bill.  The number will be posted on signs alongside the familiar shiny red kettles outside 297 locations in the metro Atlanta region.
  • What I like about it:  Again, this campaign capitalizes on what mobiles are great for -- just-in-time action and giving.  It is also convenient for those who do not keep change in their pockets like most of us now, and it has the potential to generate a lot more money per donation than a few coins thrown into a red bucket in front of the supermarket. If marketed well alongside the bell ringers (who ideally can help anyone having trouble texting), this campaign has potential. And judging by the media attention the announcement has already generated, the Salvation Army has some PR prowess.  
  • What could be improved: So far, so good -- the campaign has not launched. However, I would have loved to see a kettle and the shortcode somewhere on the Salvation Army web site - with an opportunity to throw some clinking virtual coins into the pot by texting in. Come on, engage me on your site -- integrate mobile with the rest of the online presence.  I loved how an Israeli charity used texting -- to fill an empty plate in front of a sad child in real time.  Meir Panim, a network of soup kitchens in Israel, ran “SMS for Lunch”, a promotional interactive campaign: On their website a boy was seen, facing an empty plate. The site invited you to donate through SMS. The moment the system received the SMS, the banner changed: the plate filled and the boy smiled. The amount of the donation -- each SMS -- covers the cost of one meal for a child, according to the site.  It seems there is lots of potential for creativity for both the UNCEF and Salvation Army campaigns! (For more on that campaign, see my article on mobile fundraising here.)

Stand Up for Kids' Karma Campaign -- Txt2Clothe Homeless Kids

  • How it works: Stand Up for Kids, a nonprofit working to alleviate kid and teen homelessness, gets my top pick for a fundraising campaign with mobiles this month.  The organization teamed up with Virgin Mobile's Generation RE campaign and American Eagle Outfitters.  A user texts in "karma" to shortcode 68450 and a piece of clothing is donated to a homeless kid on the texter's behalf by American Eagle.The donor can also text in his or her name to appear on the Stand Up for Kids website.
  • What I like:  Great use of texting -- team up with a company to make a donation on your behalf but build a mobile list in the process.  The medium is right for the group -- they are appealing to a younger audience that feels empathetic to teen homelessness. Even though the website clearly crys "poor nonprofit," the Karma site is cool enough. Streaming the donor names makes people feel engaged. People love to see their names and the recognition when they do something 'good.'  I can't speak the rest of the campaign but the fact that there is a catchy button on the home page for this mobile campaign is progress in comparison to the ones above.  Hopefull there are some in-store promotions at American Eagle as well, and Virgin is certainly doing a fine job promoting its Generation RE project.
  • What could be improved: Why in the world does it take three days to get a donor's name up on the site?  The nice thing about texting in is that there is an immediate response - back to the mobile in the form of a return SMS, and easily also back up on the site.  Seems to me that could be automated so that a donor's name is up in near-real time (even if it has to be monitored to avoid posting from spammers).  Virgin has a text2donate program too -- you can give to the nonprofit by texting "DONATE" to 7845, but it seems Stand Up for Kids is too humble to mention that anywhere on their site. So, if you read this, have a heart.  Donate $5 by texting DONATE to 7845 to alleviate child and teen homelessness, and then give a kid some clothes from American Eagle by texting in "karma" to 68450 - which will cost you nothing but the cost of the text.

What campaign do you like?  Why?  Post a comment and let us know!



Stand Up for Kids Karma Campaign

I like the Stand Up for Kids Karma Campaign, mostly because the donation results in something tangible and easy to understand for the donor. I give money, they give clothes. Giving money to an organization for general support is great, but it requires that people know, trust and like the organization and its programs. More people, I believe, will donate to give clothes instead of taking the time to learn about the organization.

It's all great, however. I need to learn more about how to work with a carrier to get these donations back to the nonprofit. My organization (Community Voice Mail) would like to try this.


Text messasge donations

I'd love to share with you how text donations work and how the NPO gets the donations. Drop me a line and lets connect!
George Morales

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